The Case of Hana & Alice

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Case of Hana & Alice Movie Poster Image
Compelling, beautifully animated middle school mystery.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 100 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Themes of perseverance and courage are demonstrated as characters look behind what they're told and try to find the truth. Demonstrates how truth can be twisted and why people may tell false stories in order to prop up their self-esteem or impress others. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hana and Alice are tough, strong, unafraid, though movie begins with Hana hiding inside after traumatic experience. Thanks to Alice's friendship, Hana is eventually able to come out of her house, live a mainstream life. Some bullying, like when a male classmate throws something at Alice and calls her a "devil"; Alice physically defeats him and doesn't stand for the abuse. Girls are mostly shown as noble and powerful. A few regressive gender messages, like when Alice's mom says if you're popular with boys, girls "won't like you," says she never wanted female friends but relished attention of male classmates that came because she was "so cute."

Violence

Plot revolves around "murder" that turns out to not be a crime at all. Viewers do see a boy writhing on the floor, hear lots of discussion of anaphylaxis (shock caused by allergic reaction). Alice's classmates bully her at first, especially one boy who throws a chicken wing at her, calls her "devil." Alice pushes him off a fence and steps on his crotch before demanding intel about the "murder." At one point, one character thinks another has been run over by a truck (she hasn't). Talk of concepts connected with death: a spirit world, the underworld, being possessed, ghosts.

Sex

Romance figures into storyline: A boy has several girls in his class sign (faux) "marriage contracts" without telling them he has more than one girlfriend.

Language

Language is infrequent, but expect "hell," "damn," "heck." Also some insulting language, as when a classmate calls Alice a "devil," and she calls him a "greasy slob." The boy also says he "pissed himself."  

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Case of Hana & Alice is an anime movie about two school-age girls who become friends after one moves to a new town and discovers a mystery. There's lots of talk of a "murder" (or at least a mysterious death) and other concepts connected with death: a spirit world, the underworld, being possessed, and ghosts. But none of these things is presented in a spooky way, and there aren't any images connected with the murder/death other than a boy writing on the floor of a classroom after an injury. A girl is bullied by classmates, including a boy who throws a chicken wing at her back. She stands up to the bullying and physically dominates the chicken wing thrower. Romance plays a part in the story: A boy dates several girls in his class without telling them about one another. One of the main characters has experienced a trauma but slowly heals from it over the course of the movie, mostly thanks to the stalwart friendship of the other main character. Both are portrayed as tough, strong, and noble, and they display courage and perseverance. Language is infrequent but includes "heck," "damn," "hell," and some insults. An adult woman says that she was unpopular with female classmates because the boys in her class liked her too much because she was "cute." The film may move a little too slowly for younger viewers, but it's great whole-family watching for families with tweens and up -- or patient young viewers who can wait as the story slowly spools out.

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What's the story?

The anime prequel to director Shunji Iwai's 2004 live-action film Hana and Alice, THE CASE OF HANA & ALICE drops in on the title characters while they're in middle school. The story begins as Tetsuko "Alice" Arisugawa (voiced by Yū Aoi) moves to a new neighborhood with her mom and notices Hana (Anne Suzuki) peering at her from her bedroom window. Even stranger, when Alice starts going to class in her new school, the students there tell a legend about a student named Judas who supposedly had four wives and was poisoned by one of them. Can Alice and Hana find out the truth about Judas? Did he ever really exist? And if he did, was he really poisoned to death, and that's why he never returned to school? 

Is it any good?

With absolutely beautiful visuals and a strange yet compelling story that revolves around a middle school mystery, this animated movie is a treasure for audiences of all ages. Drawn in the rotoscoped fashion -- in which artists trace over live-action footage to produce animation that looks more realistic than traditional animation -- The Case of Hana & Alice is so intriguingly lovely to look at that viewers can be forgiven for just gaping and losing track of the story at times. Not that the plot itself is complicated: Most viewers will realize right away that the legend Alice is fed sounds like a bunch of middle school nonsense. The real drama here is seeing two girls become friends as one heals from trauma. 

But watching Alice poke around her school and then around the small, lovely town in which she lives is a joy to the eye. The movie's color palette is full of glowing pastels. Even scenes set in everyday locations like a classroom or a pharmacy are gorgeous visual treats. And though the storyline is a slow burn, it doles out its twists judiciously, keeping you hungry for the next one. Alice and Hana soon discover that there are wrinkles to the Judas legend that even the school's students and teachers don't know. As they sleuth together, they grow ever closer and more curious. In between, Hana and Alice drink tea, compete in track and field trials, talk on the phone, and walk around town -- very ordinary activities that are burnished into beauty by animation and care. Judas may or may not be real, but Alice and Hana's friendship is, and watching it grow is this gorgeous movie's most potent pleasure. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the similarities and differences between where and how Alice lives and where and how you and your family live. How are her school life, home life, and social life similar to yours? How are they different? 

  • Talk about anime movies and how they compare/contrast to other forms of animation. How does The Case of Hana & Alice differ from anime films that involve more magical/spiritual elements?

  • Do you consider Alice and/or Hana to be role models? How do they demonstrate perseverance and courage? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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